Bonner backs Homeland shift

Customs commissioner supports president's plan to make personnel changes to build Homeland Security Department

Center for Strategic and International Studies

U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert Bonner is backing President Bush's plans to shift federal employees to other jobs to build a Homeland Security Department and pay incentives to attract talented workers.

In a speech Aug. 26 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bonner said the president must have the authority and flexibility to make personnel changes and quickly shift job assignments as new threats or new enemies emerge.

"The new Department of Homeland Security must be the most modern, efficient and flexible in the federal government," Bonner said. "And the new secretary should have the authority he or she needs to do the job right.

"This includes having the authority to consolidate and align functions, integrate and deploy personnel and transfer assets and funds as needed to get the job done."

Customs is one of several agencies that will be folded completely into the new department once Congress passes legislation authorizing the biggest reorganization in government since the end of World War II. The changes could affect 170,000 employees throughout government who could be reassigned jobs or the locations of their offices once the change is made.

In addition, Bonner said the new secretary of the department must have the flexibility to quickly shift funds as needed to deal with terrorist threats.

If that authority is not given to the new secretary, Bonner warned, "We cannot possibly be nimble enough to respond to the shifts in the evolving and complex threats we will face from international terrorist organizations."

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